Check Marks

HereM-Fs the camp checklist from The SunM-Fs Jamison Hensley

Ravens Training Camp

July 29, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Focus Jamal Lewis on football Ravens officials appear confident that the All-Pro running back can block out the uncertainty stemming from his federal drug conspiracy case.

One reason is Lewis ran for 2,066 yards last season (second-most in NFL history) despite knowing he could be charged at any time. But thereM-Fs really no telling how Lewis M-y who carries a quiet, reserved demeanor in the locker roomM-y will react to the stress of a pending trial, which could take place during the season.

Lewis recently said he had taken out his anger from the situation during daily workouts, driving him to report in better shape than any previous offseason minicamp. The Ravens canM-Ft afford any drop-off in LewisM-F mental toughness because he accounted for 46 percent of the teamM-Fs total offense (2,271 of 4,929 yards).

Find out where Peter Boulware stands

The best pass rusher in franchise history is the teamM-Fs biggest injury concern. After undergoing knee surgery in January, Boulware will concentrate on rehabbing off to the side during camp and not play a down in the preseason.

The best-case scenario: Boulware improves quick enough to be a pass rush specialist for the early part of the regular season and gradually becomes an every-down, outside linebacker by November. The worstcase: Boulware takes a step backward in his workouts and must stay on the physically-unable-to-perform list into the season, which means he must miss at least the first six games.

The knee injury is a tough one for Boulware because he is a speed rusher and relies heavily on his legs to generate a burst. Besides Boulware, backup quarterback Anthony Wright (shoulder) and tight end Trent Smith (leg) also will be limited in camp.

Improve Kyle BollerM-Fs awareness

The major question mark on the team is at the gameM-Fs most important position. In his second season as the starting quarterback, Boller has to gain a better understanding of orchestrating a conservative, runfirst offensive philosophy.

For the Ravens to take that next step in the playoffs, he has to cut down on mistakes (nine interceptions and nine fumbles in nine starts) as well as increase his efficiency. He ranked second-to-last in quarterback rating (62.4) and completion percentage (51.8) among NFL starters last season.

Turn Terrell Suggs into a starting outside linebacker

The 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft, Suggs was named the NFLM-Fs Defensive Rookie of the Year despite falling short of expectations.

He showed flashes of brilliance by recording a team-best 12 sacks last season but failed to develop into an every-down linebacker. A defensive end at Arizona State, Suggs struggled dropping back in pass protection and reacting to the run.

A big reason for his troubled transition was his conditioning. This offseason, he reported in better shape M-y 10 pounds lighter M-y and has moved more fluidly at linebacker. Still, being the only new starter on the leagueM-Fs third-ranked defense, the pressure is on Suggs to hold his own.

Settle who is starting at right guard

The only battle for a starting job is on the offensive line, where Bennie Anderson will be pushed by Casey Rabach. Other than pursuing the same spot, they couldnM-Ft be more different blockers.

Anderson, whose weight ballooned this offseason, has more bulk and power and has proven to be a better fit for an offensive system that doesnM-Ft pull or trap much. Rabach, a third-round pick in 2001 who has been a backup for a majority of his career, is more athletic and can get past the line of scrimmage to the linebackers more quickly.

The Ravens also will take a look at Rabach at center, which is probably his natural position. But starting Rabach there means Mike Flynn, the teamM-Fs starting center for the past three seasons, would move to right guard.

Limit the distraction of Chris McAlister skipping camp

Holdouts in coach Brian BillickM-Fs tenure M-y from Tony Siragusa and Travis Taylor in 2000 to Kyle Boller and Terrell Suggs last season M-y have never harmed the team once the regular season began. The Ravens can only hope that trend continues this year with their Pro Bowl cornerback.

McAlister is not expected to report on time to protest being named the teamM-Fs franchise player for the second straight season. A prolonged absence can only hurt a defense primed to be one of the elite groups in the NFL.

Figure out who is going to be the return specialist

It seems like there is no middle ground with Lamont Brightful, whose sloppiness in fielding punts has overshadowed several dazzling returns.

In the most crowded competition of camp, he will try to beat out Derek Abney, a seventh-round pick who holds five NCAA Division I records for kick returns; Kareem Kelly, a former practice squad player; and undrafted rookies B.J. Sams and Lance Frazier.

The sleeper of camp may be Sams, a converted running back out of McNeese State who has distinguished himself by his sure-handedness in fielding punts.

Inject Kevin Johnson and Devard Darling into the passing game

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